"Plain And Simple" - Mike & The Mechanics in concert at the Royal Concert Hall Nottingham 15th June 1995. Review by Alan Hewitt.

Three tours and four albums have passed since Mike & The Mechanics fist appeared in 1985. The latest album and tour have seen Mike try things a little differently. How well has it worked? Well… we shall see. The Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham was the first venue where I managed to catch up with the new live show, and the first thing that I noticed as I took my seat waiting for the band to appear, was the sparse stage setting. Gone were the fancy backdrops; computerised lighting and the other trappings of a rock show. Instead, the stage was lit by relatively few lights and onstage equipment was at a minimum. Show time arrived and the band took the stage to a rowdy welcome opening the show with the first track from the new album; Beggar On A Beach Of Gold. A predictable opener but thoroughly enjoyable nonetheless, with an excellent vocal delivery by Paul Young and good delivery from the rest of the band. This was followed by Get Up from the Word Of Mouth album which was thoroughly enjoyable and far more powerful live than it had been on the album. Mike has been extremely lucky to have the services of two such excellent singers but the performance by the other band members was excellent too. New drummer; Gary Wallis was certainly no slouch in the solid rock department and his partner in crime; Tim Renwick added a deeper edge to several of the tracks.

I was surprised by the acoustic introduction to the next track; Silent Running, a long time favourite of mine and it was marvellous to hear it again with the emphasis this time being placed on Paul Carrack's vocalisations. I was also impressed by Paul's performance on keyboards where he slotted into Adrian Lee's place so well it was impossible to see the join , so to speak! It was also marvellous to see Mike on acoustic guitar again and the use of that particular sound certainly gives the song a more elemental touch. Plain And Simple was the next track and this served to emphasise the new approach by Mike and the band; it was a plain and simple show, reliant solely on the talents of the musicians and not on stage gimmickry.
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Over My Shoulder followed and was every bit as good live as it was on the album with a particularly good duet by both Paul’s and some lovely acoustic playing by Tim Renwick. The normally staid crowd were really into the band's performance and gave a full throated rendition of the chorus, egged on by Paul Young who seemed to be having a really good time. A firm highlight of the album easily became an onstage highlight for me in the form of the acoustically driven Another Cup Of Coffee which simply gets better every time I hear it. The two Pauls certainly sang with real gusto and spirit and I think this one is destined to remain in the set for quite a while. I admit that I was quite surprised by the inclusion of the next track in the set: Someone Always Hates Someone, which, for me at least was one of the weakest tracks on the new album. Live, however, it took on a new life all of its own with a simple yet dramatic guitar riff, and equally plaintive keyboard and vocal phrasings which delivered far more punch than the studio version.

The band's cover of the Smokey Robinson classic; You Really Got A Hold On Me followed with some on stage banter between Mike and Paul Carrack. This track was delivered very well by both singers and suited Mike's intention to create more atmosphere and mood to the shows and almost managed to convert the cavernous Royal Concert Hall into a smoke filled Blues club… quite a feat, I can tell you!

Heavy Rock followed the Blues with the foot stomping Web Of Lies which is another favourite from the new album. Mike really rocked out with some great guitar riffing accompanied by Tim Renwick who looked far more at home here than he did during Pink Floyd's latest extravaganzas. Special mention here also for Gary Wallis whose solid drumming pulled the entire song together and gave it an extra ballsy performance. The obligatory band intros took place before the highlight of the entire show; an astonishing medley of tracks from the various bands that the members of the Mechanics have been in; beginning with Paul Young's BRILLIANT Sad Café hit; Everyday Hurts which brought a shiver up my spine BLOODY MARVELLOUS! It was almost like watching Sad Cafe all over again and brought back a lot of memories for me personally. Equally impressive was Paul Carrack's rendition of his Ace hit How Long? and finally to round it off… I Can't Dance which elicited howls of laughter and delight from the audience and really got everyone going. Paul Young as Phil Collins's stand in was extremely impressive but thankfully he did not indulge in Phil's penchant for exploring his crotch!

From the ridiculous to the sublime, as the band next launched into 1989's hit: Living Years which hasn't lost any of the immediacy which it has on record; Paul Carrack's vocals were superb and even without Adrian Lee, the overall effect was every bit as stirring as it had been on the Living Years tour back in 1989almost six years ago… was it really THAT long ago? As if we really needed it; All I Need Is A Miracle rounded off the show proper with Paul Young hamming it up and getting the audience up and dancing in the aisles. There really is no other track which the band could play to end a show; this one is just TOO good to replace.

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Everyone in the house; band and audience were thoroughly enjoying themselves and the band were showing that they rely can rock with the best of them. The encores were not long in coming and by now the audience were ready to get down and groove and were serenaded by the gorgeous cover version of I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will be Forever) by Stevie Wonder with marvellous harmonies by both singers and faultless accompaniment by the rest of the band. Lulledinto a false sense of calm the thunderous beat of Word Of Mouth ended the show on a suitably raucous note with Paul Young again encouraging audience participation to leave everyone breathless at the end of an excellent show.

A few points of criticism must be made about the show. Musically it was as excellent as you might expect from a band as good as this. However, several people remarked tome at the time ,and I can't help but agree with them; the emphasis on "Hits" was evident. This was very much a Greatest Hits package and there is much more to Mike & The Mechanics than that. The show was also a little on the short side; slightly under a hundred minutes. Maybe it is just me being used to Genesis' lengthy extravaganzas but I do feel that a couple more tracks could have been included. Having said that; the show was thoroughly enjoyable and I look forward to seeing the Mechanics several more times on this current tour before they retire to the garage for a well-earned rest!